Category Archives: Video Games

Harmony Gold Is At It Again…

Yup. You read that right. Harmony Gold is at it again with another round of lawsuits aimed at BattleTech IP.

The story broke a few days ago (thanks to user Clanfighter for the comment tip!), and the Harebrained Schemes (HBS) and MechWarrior Online forums are ablaze. There’s a lot of vitriol being spewed (rightly) against Harmony Gold for being litigious parasites and trying to cash in on BattleTech‘s and MechWarrior Online’s success, and while that’s certainly true, there’s a little more to it than that.

First, let’s take a look at the actual lawsuit itself. Court documents filed last March by the law firm Calfo Eakes & Ostrovsky PLLC reveal that Harmony Gold is suing both Harebrained Schemes and PGI for copyright infringement on their Robotech imagery, which so far sounds just like what happened with the Unseen saga. That ended with Catalyst Game Labs releasing new artwork for the unseen ‘Mechs, and we all thought everything was done for good.

Harmony Gold apparently felt differently. The new suit names PGI as the primary defendants, saying the current models used for the Rifleman, Archer, Warhammer, Marauder and Phoenix Hawk are similar enough to the original Robotech images that they infringe the copyright. It also names HBS as another defendant saying that their use of the Atlas, Locust, and Shadowhawk are too similar to their property to be used in the upcoming BattleTech game.

Marauder PHawk

via unitedstatescourts.org

I took out some of the images filed in the court documents so we can take a look. For the complaint against PGI, you can maybe make an argument they’re similar but so similar they infringe? That’s harder to say. I’m no lawyer, but I do know that courts often look to specifics rather than general shapes when determining these kinds of cases, and you can easily spot dozens of differences between the two designs being compared.

Warhammer Archer

via unitedstatescourts.org

Rifleman

via unitedstatescourts.org

The pictures being used against HBS look even less alike. In fact, the whole argument seems spurious at best. An Atlas looks like a Crusader? A Shadowhawk looks like an Archer? A Locust looks like a Marauder? These ‘Mechs don’t even share the same silhouette, let alone any specific details. It’s like Harmony Gold is trying to say that nobody else can have giant robots since they have a passing resemblance to their giant robots.

Atlas Shadowhawk

via unitedstatescourts.org

Locust

via unitedstatescourts.org

The case against HBS is sure to be tossed as soon as it goes before a judge. The case for PGI might linger on, but I’m fairly confident that PGI has prepared for this day and has numerous counter arguments to keep their game safe.

The case against HBS is sure to be tossed as soon as it goes before a judge.

There were a few more interesting tidbits to be gleaned from the court docs. Apparently, PGI had been in contact with Harmony Gold in 2013 when they were planning on releasing the Warhammer and Marauder ‘Mechs in MechWarrior Online. Both times Harmony Gold said the submitted designs were too similar and infringed on their copyright. We don’t know what those earlier designs might have looked like, but you can see from the images above that the current models for the Warhammer and Marauder are very different from the original Robotech designs.

Also mentioned in the suit is how Harmony Gold “discovered” the infringing materials. Evidently, it was an old news post by Catalyst Game Labs on their partnership with PGI in creating some “lore vignettes” in 2016. The blog post featured a schematic image of the Warhammer, which was released in MechWarrior Online in January 2016. Both the Marauder and the Marauder IIC were released later in 2016.

Warhammer

via unitedstatescourts.org

It says something about how confident PGI is in their position that they still released both the Marauder and Warhammer despite having the court documents filed just before their release in MWO.

So why is Harmony Gold pursuing this case when they seem to have a very good chance of losing? Well, they could be hoping for a quick settlement with both PGI and HBS, however, given the strength of their defense, I doubt either would be inclined to let Harmony Gold win this time.

On the other hand, Harmony Gold has a very good reason to pursue this case as aggressively as they can. The Robotech live action movie is going full steam ahead, and there are probably plans to have both game and action figure tie-ins with the movie. Nevermind the fact the movie has no script, no cast, and has just recently changed directors to the same guy that did Stephen King’s It adaptation.

Harmony Gold could also be using this case as a means of testing the legal waters for a future lawsuit against MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries.

Harmony Gold could also be using this case as a means of testing the legal waters for a future lawsuit against MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. We know that PGI’s upcoming single-player game will feature some of the Unseen designs, and if it’s as financially successful as it’s expected to be (and if the Robotech movie doesn’t crash and burn like every other live-action anime movie) then Harmony Gold could stand to make a bundle.

One thing for certain is that neither PGI nor HBS is likely to comment on the case anytime soon as the trial is set for September of 2018. Here’s hoping they lose, and badly.

New Tech in MechWarrior Online!

The latest patch for MechWarrior Online drops today, and while most patches are the usual crowd of minor tweaks and balance changes, today’s patch is a massive event that propels MWO into a new era in BattleTech.

Welcome to Civil War.

Or more accurately, welcome to the 3060s, where Inner Sphere technology finally catches up (kinda) with their Clan counterparts. Added to the game are all the best weaponry that BattleTech has ever had, including Rotary ACs, Heavy Gauss Rifles, and single shot Rocket Launchers. The Clans aren’t left out in this update either, as they receive Heavy Lasers, Advanced Tactical Missiles, and Micro Lasers.

More on the fancy new guns later. First, let’s dive into the patch notes and go over the latest event that brings us into the Civil War era.

Operation Bulldog… sort of

Operation Bulldog

courtesy of mwomercs.com

We begin with the latest addition to Faction Play, which despite the name of the patch being Civil War actually brings us back to the Invasion Era of 3057.

Called simply Season 1, the goal of the event is just like Operation Bulldog: the Inner Sphere factions have all come together to annihilate one of the clans. In gameplay terms, this means that if any Inner Sphere faction can take and hold a Clan Homeworld (Bearclaw, Strana Mechty, Huntress, or Ironhold), then the event ends and the Spheroids can claim victory.

Unlike the actual BattleTech lore, the Clans aren’t bound by the Tukayyid truce (or maybe they just ignore it – hard to say). For a Clan victory, they must reach and conquer any three Inner Sphere Capitals (Luthien, Tharkad, New Avalon, Sian, or Atreus). If they manage to do what no Clan has ever done, then victory for the Clans is declared and the event ends.

Operation Bulldog

via imgur

To conquer a Homeworld or Capital is no easy task. Either side must completely encircle the planet on the star map in order for the invasion to commence. Once it does, that capital/homeworld will become the sole point of contention for the entire Inner Sphere or Clan; everyone will pile in to either attack or defend the planet. If the defense is successful, then that planet cannot be targeted for invasion for the rest of the season.

Naturally, this event is weighted to give the Inner Sphere a bit of an advantage, as they’re both lacking in numbers as well as technology (even with the new gear that’s been released). But since both sides could certainly lose in their attempts to conquer a capital, it’s entirely possible that the season will end in a draw.

Lastly, the event also sees the addition of two new Clans: the Steel Vipers and Nova Cats. Just like in the lore, the Nova Cats fight within the Smoke Jaguar territory, and the Steel Vipers fight within the Jade Falcon territory. However, neither of the new factions have territories of their own, and any votes in war planning are done for their parent faction.

New Inner Sphere Tech

Rotary AC/5

via mwomercs.com user Sparks Murphey

Alright, alright, let’s talk about the new tech. And oh boy, there’s a lot of it.

Starting with the Inner Sphere, we’ve got a bevy of new ballistic weapons to choose from. There’s new Light and Heavy Machine Guns, Light and Heavy Gauss Rifles, LB 2, 5 and 20-X Autocannons, Ultra AC/2, 10, and 20 Autocannons, and my personal favorites, the Rotary AC/2 and AC/5.

Each of the LB and Ultra Autocannons performs about as you’d expect from firing the LB 10-X or the Ultra AC/5 (which already existed from the Clan Invasion Era) but have damage and range numbers in line with lore (if not exactly for balance purposes). The Light and Heavy Machine Guns and Gauss Rifles work the same way, with the Heavy Gauss having received some additional recoil and crosshair dancing (similar to shooting while jumping).

Rotary ACs are a brand new beast that streams out hot lead like a bullet hose. While the animation may seem satisfying, there remains some skepticism if the new Autocannon will outperform existing ballistics in terms of DPS given how often they jam and how hot they run.

  Light PPC

For energy weapons, the Inner Sphere gets the remaining ER Lasers, and the brand new Light PPC, Snub-Nose PPC, and Heavy PPC. Each of these weapons performs similarly to their existing counterparts, but with range limits (and in the case of the Snubby, range penalties to damage) one would expect from lore.

In missile land the Inner Sphere gets a bonanza, with Streak Missiles being rounded out and also with the addition of MRMs and Rocket Launchers. These last two, in particular, are proving to be devastating weapon systems in the hands of an experienced pilot who’s used to boating up dumb-fire SRMs.  

Perhaps most exciting for the Inner Sphere is the addition of new equipment. Stealth Armor, Light Ferro-Fibrous, and Light Fusion Engines will provide Inner Sphere ‘Mechs will additional toughness or sneakiness as required, and Laser AMS and Targeting Computers give Spheroids the same equipment as Clans have had for some time.

The Clans Get Something Too

  Heavy Laser

The Clans receive less gear, but what they do receive is pretty exciting. The Light and Heavy Machine Guns make their appearance again, but it’s the energy weaponry that gets most expanded. Micro ER and Pulse Lasers, and Heavy Lasers expand the Clan arsenal with never-before-seen firepower. Micro Lasers, in particular, seem a brutal addition to clan Novas which are able to potentially mount 12 of the tiny, fast firing lasers.

The Clans also receive ATMs, or Advanced Tactical Missiles, which deal more damage at close range and less damage at long range. As a cost for their flexibility, they fire fewer missiles per ton than either the Steak or regular LRMs. Rounding out the Clan arsenal are Light Active Probes, which provide fewer benefits than regular Active Probes but weigh less, Laser AMS, which provide ammo-less missile defenses at the cost of heat, and Light TAG, which is a shorter range but lighter regular TAG.

New ‘Mechs On The Way

Uziel

via mwomercs.com user Alopex

Along with new guns comes a lance of new ‘Mechs to add to your hangars. The Uziel, Cougar, Annihilator, and Mad Cat MK II are all scheduled to release later in 2017 or in early 2018, with the Uziel showing up first and Mad Cat MK II appearing last. Pre-orders are available now for these new ‘Mechs on the Civil War MWO page.

The patch also comes with an assortment of balance tweaks and bug fixes, all of which you can pour over on the MWO patch page here.

It’s an exciting new era for MechWarrior Online, so strap on your Neurohelmets and get in on the action!

A Locust Love Story

I’ll be honest, I didn’t exactly ‘get’ the whole dating simulator craze. Even when the game speaks directly to me I’d rather be spending my gaming hours in a giant robot dealing death and destruction (or a ninja, or pirate, or something similar). But dating sims? Whatever, man. That stuff is for chicks.

Then I saw the trailer for A Locust Love Story and my life will never be the same.

Born from the creative genius of MechWarriors Krivvan and Halimede, A Locust Love Story follows young Locust-chan as she attends her first day at River City High. As a transfer student just going into her second year of high school Locust is entering the prime of her combat shelf-life, but she’ll have to be careful. There are mean ‘Mechs at this school, just waiting to eat a tasty little morsel like her for breakfast!

She won’t be alone though – Locust will meet lifelong friends who will help her draw strength to overcome the many challenges that lay ahead, as well as have loads of fun along the way.

Locust and Awesome

She sure is Awesome

“We got inspired by Hatoful Boyfriend,” writes Halimede in an email interview. “Story-wise we got inspired by classical visual novel tropes and just put a MechWarrior Online spin to them.”

“The story line was to be based partially on the somewhat rocky patch and meta shift history of MWO,” Krivvan clarifies, “which I figure was probably because we were both playing in some tournaments and the first MechWarrior Online World Championship at the time.”

The entire game is built on a visual novel game engine called Ren’Py. The engine is built on the Python programming language and is relatively simple to use. It’s also the foundation for a metric ton of visual novel games, the quality of which will range from something like Locust Love Story to somewhat less reputable titles.

Griffin and Firestarter

High school can be a mean place

As for the workload, it’s a fifty/fifty split between the pair. Krivvan does most of the programming, while Halimede takes care of the visual elements. “Most of the art (besides the title screen, I would like to take credit for that) was Halimede’s thing, and she designed the characters,” says Krivvan.

“For the actual art I made up some camos to fit the Personalities – ‘Pretty Baby’ for example got the darker shades and Purple for being a bit depressing and lonely,” tells Halimede. “Then we just took pictures of ‘em in different poses, some free flight spectator shots of River City for backdrops, and an extensive photo shoot with our heroine Locust-chan for the cover.”

The intro was as simple as adding “some effects like the flower petals”, and then taking some existing sound effects and buttons from MechWarrior Online.

As for why a Locust, Krivvan isn’t quite sure. “Maybe because there was something distinctively cute and petite about Locusts?”

Locust-chan

Locust-chan

So far the game is just a trailer with what the pair have been able to finish so far, but the skeleton of a truly amazing dating sim game is there. “We originally started when both of us were still active in the MWO competitive scene and it dropped by the wayside a bit when the World Championship rolled around,” says Halimede. “In general I would love to finish it someday.”

“And there are a few surprises planned that I haven’t mentioned yet,” adds Krivvan.

I for one am on the edge of my seat wondering what will happen to Locust-chan next. Here’s hoping that Krivvan and Halimede find the time to bring this amazing ‘Mech dating sim to life.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

MRBC Season Wrap Up!

The season has ended! And it has been a wild ride for every team in the MRBC. It’s been a bit of a while since we last checked on the MRBC, for which I blame the release of the Battletech Backer Beta for. But let’s not sit here and play the blame game for who screwed up what – instead, let’s take a look at the standings are seen how MRBC’s Season 9 shaped up.

  Eon Synergy

In Europe it was Eon Synergy that took home the crown, having pulled away from the pack in the last few weeks with commanding victories over every other team in the division, finishing the season with a reputation score of 15,450. It seems that Black Spikes Team 2 (Yellow Submarine) just couldn’t maintain the momentum they had halfway through the season, as they lost a crucial match at the end of May to Eon, losing all 5 drops. Their performance remained strong, however, leaving them with a second place finish and a score of 13,275. Rounding out in third were the White Death Mercenary Company with a reputation score of 12,650.

   

The fight in the Americas was a bit closer with Dropship 5 emerging as ultimate victors. Their last match against second place Steel Jaguar resulted in a bit of an upset, with the Jaguar’s taking the match 3 drops to 2. But the MRBC is a score-based league, and after the final tallies were made it was Dropship 5 taking the pennant with a score of 14,750. Steel Jaguar with a score of 13,350, and barely squeaking into third place were the 228th IBR “Black Watch”, a mere 275 points separated from fourth place with a final score of 12,775.

  VETO

With only 4 teams, Asia/Pacific’s Division A finals took place a month ago. Team Veto swept the remaining games in the division, taking nearly every match played 5-0 (barring matches against the 228th IBR), and securing a first place finish with a final score of 9,275 reputation points. The 228th IBR “The Wild Ones”, while beginning the season with an early lead, eventually settled into second place with a final score of 7,500 points. Third place was taken by The Cheapskate’s with a score of 4,700 points.

 

Division B Winners Rise To Division A

   

According to the MRBC rules, the winner of the Division B seasons will be bumped up to Division A starting next season, so there will be several new teams to welcome into the premier division. In Europe, Division B saw the Antares Scorpions taking home the gold, narrowly edging out the Phoenix Legion with a final score of 15,825.

  ISENGRIM

In North America, the tight four-way race eventually came down to two teams: ISENGRIM and the Blackstone Knights. The rivalry for first between the two teams soon came down to a final match, and on June 22 it was ISENGRIM that emerged victoriously. They’ll be moving on to Division A with a final Division B score of 15,325, and a league leading 373 confirmed ‘Mech kills. An outstanding performance.

 

Asia/Pacific’s Division B was a similarly tight race between the [ISRC] Innersphere Rustbuckets and Clan Crossfire. While both teams fought valiantly, it was ultimately the Innersphere Rustbuckets that achieved victory, a bare 375 points ahead of Clan Crossfire with a final score of 13,725. They’ll be moving on to face a new challenge in Division A.

Congratulations to every team that took part in the MRBC season making it the largest one yet.  The MRBC will be taking a bit of a break for now as the MechWarrior Online World Championships begin to start in the coming weeks. We’ll be sure to cover that tournament as soon as it begins.

BattleTech at E3 and What Is The “Argo”

Concept Argo art

courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

As some of you may be aware, E3 is happening, and that means the developers of BattleTech are there to show off their latest build and drop a few more hints as to what the final product will look like. And oh boy did they ever, with Harebrained Schemes revealing 2 full minutes of never-before-seen footage of the single player campaign screens.

Hosted by PC Gamer magazine, the co-founders of Harebrained Schemes Jordan Weisman and Mitch Gitelman sat down to talk with Sean “Day[9]” Plott about the upcoming game. The conversation was mostly aimed at non-BattleTech aficionados, so I won’t bore you with all the minutiae of what was said, but I’ll make sure to give you the keynotes of the presentation.

Lady Kamea Orano

courtesy of PC Gamer

First off, we were given some additional details as to how the story will unfold. Lady Kamea Orano (the spelling of which is questionable as I’m transcribing from video) has been deposed by her evil uncle and has contracted the player’s mercenary company with restoring her to her rightful throne.

The throne, in this case, being to an interstellar nation called the Aurigan Coalition, which was revealed in a Kickstarter update to be a minor house nestled between the Capellan Confederation and the Taurian Concordat. This addition to the Inner Sphere circa 3025 seems to be made entirely for the game, but considering it’s being born from Jordan Weisman himself it is likely to be made canon upon BattleTech’s release.

After the campaign overview, the interview went into detail on the inner-workings of your mercantile ship, the Argo.

Argo

Courtesy of PC Gamer

What IS The Argo?

From the video, it can be very hard to tell what kind of ship the Argo even is. During the interview, Mitch described it as “a broken-down hulk of a spaceship” along with being “your mercenary command center,” and that “you can take it all over space, going from star system to star system.” That makes it out to sound like a JumpShip, however, the Argo doesn’t resemble any JumpShip in the known universe.

It turns out the Argo isn’t a JumpShip at all, but rather a massive mobile space station that was built before the Amaris Civil War. It was intended to follow behind the first wave of system surveyors as a sort of logistical hub, supporting colonization teams with her massive onboard hydroponics bays. The intention was for the Argo to remain in-system for months, if not years, and as such it has vastly larger living quarters, recreational areas, and passenger accommodation than any military DropShip.

Inside the argo

courtesy of PC Gamer

You can tell based on the screen grabs from the development footage that the Argo does indeed have a lot of room, with massive navigation and bridge stations. There’s also a folding grav deck that allows for artificial gravity, although anywhere else people are still forced to wear mag-boots to keep from floating off.

But it doesn’t have a jump drive, so it’s forced to piggyback on JumpShips like any other dropship. Well, not quite like any other dropship; much like the Behemoth-class, it takes up two docking bays of whatever ship it latches on to. Also, like the Behemoth, she can’t fly into atmosphere owing to her vast size. Smaller DropShips dock with the Argo in order to bring men and machines planetside.

Inside the argo

courtesy of PC Gamer

As an aside, it’s nice that HBS wants to expand the BattleTech universe and make the player feel like they have something unique in the BattleTech game, but it really doesn’t feel like the Argo was even necessary. The story could have been told just as easily with a mercenary band somehow getting hold of a JumpShip, or even just a regular Union DropShip. And considering the Argo can’t even go planetside, your mercenary company will also need a real DropShip or two just to get boots on the ground.

Oh well. I doubt anyone will complain about having a luxury liner for a DropShip, at least in comparison to what most House militaries field.

Salvage Details And Some Memorable Quotes

After a peak inside the Argo, viewers were treated to another demonstration of combat with BattleTech, which didn’t seem to offer much more than what is already available in the backer beta. We did get some information on the salvage system, which will be based on BattleMech damage and that MechCommanders will want to hit opponents “just hard enough to take them down”.

Inside the argo

courtesy of PC Gamer

We also got some pretty excellent one liners. After showing a Hunchback getting cored in the back, Gitelman commented, “Get around the back of a BattleMech and slap penetrate.” Wiser words were never spoken.  

Also, after Day[9] reminisced on playing the original table top as a child, Mitch responded, “As a kid, huh? Thanks, pal.” Day[9] will be 31 later in June.

No word yet on a final release date, but it’s looking closer than ever. I’d even bet on seeing BattleTech release just in time for Christmas.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

BattleTech Backer Beta – First Impressions

The much anticipated Backer Beta finally began last Thursday with Kickstarter backers receiving Steam codes to take part in beta testing BattleTech, the latest game from Harebrained Schemes. As a backer myself, opening that email felt like Christmas morning, and seeing mom and dad had gotten me just what I wanted. Then I played the game I’d been waiting for oh so long and found out I got even more than that. Many of you will know exactly what I’m talking about, but for you unlucky readers who didn’t get in on the Kickstarter let me tell you what you’re missing.

First off, a little bit of staging is in order. The backer beta is single player skirmish mode only, pitting one lance against its opposite. The default light assault lance features not one, but two UrbanMechs, showing us that Harebrained Schemes has a good sense of humour to troll everyone right out of the gate. You can select what ‘Mechs are in your lance but you can’t customize your ‘Mechs just yet, although that is going to be in the final version of the game.

Skirmishes are limited based on “Mech Value”, which is similar to Battle Value in that it’s based on the ‘Mech’s combat effectiveness. When picking a ‘Mech you’ll be presented with 8 stats that generally describe their performance: initiative, heat, speed, range, durability, firepower, stability, and melee. Most of this will be familiar except for stability and initiative which only describe how well a ‘Mech weathers fire and whether or not a ‘Mech goes first in turn order. Generally, the heavier the ‘Mech the more stable it is but it will act later in the turn.

Pilots have four attributes – Gunnery (which determines your to-hit percentage), Piloting (which determines melee and DFA hit percentage), Tactics (which determines line-of-sight range and sensor info), and Guts (which determines your heat capacity). Each pilot also has a special ability that can either be a passive, “always-on” sort of thing or something you can activate during your turn. There’s quite a few abilities so I won’t go through all of them, but I will say Sensor Lock proved to be quite important.

Alright, let’s get to a few games.

Round 1 – FIGHT!

My first game upon installation was just me using the default team and squaring off against the same ‘Mechs with the same pilots: 2 UrbanMechs, a Hunchback and a Kintaro. I had no idea what I was doing, so I felt that a game on equal footing would be a great way to learn – sort of a trial by fire. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, lots of things, but we’ll get to that.

The first thing you notice when you get in is the similarity between BattleTech and the old MechCommander series, but where MechCommander was 3D sprites on a 2D battlefield, this game is entirely rendered in gorgeous 3D. And when I say gorgeous I really do mean it – all the ‘Mechs are the same models as found in MechWarrior Online, but now you have the chance to zoom in and really examine them up close and from every angle.

I took a moment to just appreciate my massive machines before I set them off moving. The familiar hexes of the table top are gone, but instead you have these little points you can run your ‘Mech off to. They operate the same, with your ‘Mech being able to run further the faster it is and also taking more movement “points” to turn your ‘Mech in a specific direction once you get there.

I set my lance to run to the river with an UrbanMech staying behind to provide cover from the clifftop. Through the fog my lance’s sensors picked up my opponents charging in, and they wasted no time picking my lance to pieces. They used cover, abilities, and movement to their advantage, flanking my Kintaro and melting its rear armour until its fusion engine blew out its backside. My first UrbanMech died to a Hunchback blast to the face, and my own Hunchie fought valiantly before succumbing to the combined fire of the enemy. My remaining UrbanMech no longer had a spotter for his autocannon, and so dutifully charged to his doom at my command.

Even though I’d lost (rather spectacularly I might add) I loved how alive the combat felt despite the fact it was still a turn-based game. When missiles are fired the trees will sway at their passing. The ground will rumble more with the footsteps of larger ‘Mechs versus their smaller brethren. You’ll see armour glow and melt off a ‘Mech when struck by a laser, and you’ll see the camera switch to an over-the-shoulder viewpoint so you don’t miss a second of watching your giant death machine spew fiery destruction at its unfortunate target.

That said, the computer knew what it was doing, and I clearly did not. Time to ratchet down the difficulty.

Round 2 – Electric Boogaloo

There’s no actual difficulty setting in the beta, so I did the next best thing: I made my opponents into a lance of 2 UrbanMechs and 2 Locusts versus my heavy lance of an Orion, a JagerMech, a Centurion and a Shadowhawk. After stacking the deck sufficiently in my favour I also took a little extra time to read about my pilot’s abilities and try to match them to their machine. Satisfied, I hit the launch button and set my ‘Mechs on their way.

Since I already had a massive weight advantage, I decided to split my lance into two ‘Mech elements – my Orion and JagerMech went one way around the mountain and my ShadowHawk and Centurion took the longer way. My expectation was the medium ‘Mech’s speed would get them back to the heavies if they ran into trouble.

And they did. The enemy Locusts immediately pounced on the lighter elements of my forces. Once again the computer used tree cover to their advantage, but the massive firepower my mediums possessed obliterated one Locust and disabled the other with a shattered leg. But suddenly the UrbanMechs appeared and my enemy’s plan was apparent: the Locusts were bait, there to delay my mediums so they could fall prey to the UrbanMechs combined AC/10s. A lucky headshot took down my Shadowhawk, and the my Centurion was badly mauled as it retreated, but not before finishing off the lamed Locust.

Not quite according to plan, but by then my heavy ‘Mechs had ambled into range of the UrbanMechs and were raining ordinance with impunity. It was only a few rounds before all my opponents were reduced to scrap, resulting in my first victory! I relished the triumph, even though it was against vastly inferior forces. But I wasn’t some honour-bound clanner, so I didn’t let it get me down.

Time for round 3.

Round 3 – Where’s The Fun In Fighting Fair?

I still didn’t feel like I was up to a fair fight, so this time I went with a theme. My opponent would be a better balanced light lance against my own heavy assault lance. I swapped my JagerMech for an Awesome and my Shadowhawk for a Jenner that I’d use as a spotter for the Awesome, retaining my Centurion and Orion.  My opponents would be a Panther, a Commando, a Locust and another UrbanMech.

My Jenner had the clear speed advantage over every ‘Mech on the battlefield, and I made sure to give its pilot the Sensor Lock ability which would allow my heavy mechs to fire at anything my Jenner could see at the cost of my own Jenner’s ability to fire. This proved to be instrumental, as I was able to spot the opposing Panther and soften him up with a few PPC blasts from my Awesome that I had perched atop a cliff. My Centurion and Orion were both able to quickly finish off the Panther, but my Jenner ran into trouble when it was double-teamed by the enemy Commando and Locust. They managed to mangle my poor Jenner, removing most of its armour and its right arm, before my Awesome disabled the Commando and my Orion was able to take out the Locust using its long range armaments.

The final moments of the enemy UrbanMech played out like a holovid, with my entire lance converging on the unfortunate pilot while picking off bits of armor. My Orion finally managed to land the deathblow to secure victory once more.

It may have only been three lance vs lance battles, but each one felt epic in a way that’s never been achieved in a BattleTech game, and there’s going to be so much more once the final game is released. From experiencing the core of the game in these skirmishes, I can say without exaggeration this could be the best BattleTech game of all time.

BattleTech is set to release later in 2017 (but there’s still time to get in on the beta).

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

Meet The Streamers of MechWarrior Online

If you’re like me, then you can’t get enough robot action to merely be satisfied with the time you’re actually playing a BattleTech game. If you’re clever about it, you can stuff way more ‘Mech explosions into your day. Lunch or dinner is the perfect time to look up a caster for entertainment while you’re munching down chow. Or how about a streamer in the background at work? Bonus points if you work in an office and can somehow weave random fusion engine meltdowns into your phone calls.

Whatever you do, and wherever you are, there’s a MechWarrior Online streamer who’s there to help you get through your day with a sufficient amount of PPC blasts, and each one is just a little special.  Let’s take a look at a few of the better known streamers to see which one might be the right fit for you.

TheB33f

As a fellow Canadian, it’s my privilege to begin this list of MWO streamers with TheB33f, perhaps the most Canadian thing to hit MechWarrior since PGI bought the rights from Microsoft.

The first thing you’ll notice when you watch TheB33f’s stream is his accent, which is a Quebecois accent so thick you can practically taste the maple syrup. Besides the sweet and sultry sounds, TheB33f is also a very skilled player and a member of the 228th IBR “The Black Watch”, one of the top ranked teams in Division A of the MRBC.

While you can pick up many helpful tips by watching his Twitch stream, his YouTube channel is all about having as much fun as possible while playing MechWarrior Online. He has high quality videos featuring some hilarious builds, all edited with his characteristic enthusiasm and humor. His streams also feature some of the best music mixes I’ve ever heard.

He typically streams every Wednesday and Saturday at 6 PM EST, but keep an eye on his Twitter as he’ll announce impromptu streams when he can.

Trainsy

For a more dedicated streamer, check out Trainsy. This guy actually performs his streams to thousands of viewers for a living and his schedule reflects that, being online and gaming from 2:30 PM to 11:30 PM PST with only a half hour break in between. As a professional, he has also completely monetized his stream so that nearly everything a viewer does (besides chatting) has a small donation price beside it.

As the name might suggest, he’s taken the whole train theme to a level that might not seem healthy. But hey – strong branding is important, and this guy has it in spades.

He doesn’t exclusively play MechWarrior, but as a long time fan he’s certainly got his giant robot chops as a tier 1 pilot. He’s also a pretty chill guy, and is more than happy to answer any questions he gets asked in chat while he does mostly PUG drops. Check out his Twitch stream here, and a secondary YouTube channel here.

Molten Metal

If I were to crown a king of most helpful MechWarrior Online streamers, it would have to be Baradul and his channel Molten Metal. Something about a German accent speaking flawless English that just makes every explanation stick, y’know? Or maybe I just have a thing for accents.

Besides that, Molten Metal really is the best channel for new players to learn more about MechWarrior Online. His YouTube videos are filled with detailed analysis of every choice he makes – that means both his build choices as well as his in-game decisions.

But don’t let the German professor persona fool you – this guy has some skill, as his Twitch streams will show. He doesn’t have a fixed streaming schedule, but he generally plays every day around 2 PM UTC (that’s 10 AM EST).

LokenPlays

We stay in Europe but travel to Britain for our next streamer, Loken from LokenPlays. A semi-pro streamer, you can catch him online nearly every night at 5 PM EST (that’s 10 PM GMT), although MechWarrior is only played on Tuesdays. He’s also more here for entertainment than education, but he is sure to explain his builds in between matches.

He typically plays with a group of friends to keep the witty banter lively, and he’ll bust out some pretty hilarious voices – usually just before exploding. Seriously though, if you’re looking for a great streamer to watch as he screams obscenities at his mate’s antics, then this is the channel for you.

His MechWarrior videos don’t typically find their way to his YouTube channel, but you can watch some pretty neat Star Citizen videos there. He also has a Discord channel and Steam group for those who want to join the LokenPlays community.

NoGutsNoGalaxy

What list of MechWarrior streamers would be complete without No Guts No Galaxy? As the premiere community hub for all things BattleTech they stream far more than just MechWarrior Online, such as livestreams for the BattleTech developers at Harebrained Schemes, the No Guts No Galaxy podcasts, or whatever else Phil and Daeron feel like getting up to.

Of the two of them you’ll usually catch Phil playing MWO, and despite being a tier 1 pilot Phil has a penchant for creating some very non-meta ‘Mech builds. Expect to see a variety of chassis that you don’t normally see in game on this channel. He’s also got a classic MechWarrior playlist, so you may recognize some tunes from MechWarrior games of yore.

Right now there’s a donation challenge running where you can compel Phil to play as a particular ‘Mech or at a particular tonnage and then give him a specific goal, like killing 2 heavy ‘Mechs or only targeting light ‘Mechs. It can make for some pretty hilarious games, so why not throw them a few bucks?

Expect to see some BattleTech streams from these boys as soon as the game is released.

Got a MechWarrior streamer that I missed but really should be seen? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

MechWarrior Online Winners and Losers after the Skill Tree

It’s been a little over a week since the new Skill Tree has dropped on the May 16th patch, and while it has been as rocky an introduction as anything PGI has done in MechWarrior Online, it hasn’t resulted in any sort of wide abandonment of the game. It has however resulted in a lot of confusion as MechWarriors try to unravel the dense language that was given in the update and try to determine what it meant for their favorite ‘Mech.

The stated purpose of the Skill Tree was to enhance the customizability of pilot’s chassis, and in that regard the Skill Tree has succeeded. MechWarriors can now decide whether they want their Centurion to plod along and take hits relying on all of the armor and structure skills, or they can opt for a more nimble ride with a mix of weapons and sensors to keep your ‘Mech up and fighting.

Or you can just be crazy and max your jump skills, pilot a Spider, and fly around like a crazed Land-Air ‘Mech.

Whatever route you choose, the patch has certainly shifted the viability of certain ‘Mechs more than others in this competitive game. It’s still too soon to see how the new meta will shape up, but there are some definite winners and losers with the Skill Tree, and we take a look at a few of them today.

Winners

The Skill Tree patch had a number of changes besides implementation of the tree itself. One of those changes was a review and revision of all ‘Mech quirks to ensure that the skill tree wouldn’t suddenly provide highly quirked ‘Mechs the ability to increase those quirks with skills to the point of creating a super ‘Mech. Mostly the patch removed the big weapon-based quirks that incentivised certain builds in certain ‘Mechs.

While this change has resulted in some big losers (which we’ll get to later), it also has resulted in some big winners. In general, ‘Mechs that had few or no quirks have seen their abilities increase since the new patch.

Arctic Cheetah – All variants

ACH-Prime

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

The meta light ‘Mech is one of the few light ‘Mechs to come out ahead since the Skill Tree patch. The formerly quirkless chassis now receives all the benefits of the skill nodes with no downsides, essentially supercharging the little rascal into unquestionably the best ‘Mech in its class.

Hunchback HBK-4SP

HBK-4SP

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

The Hunchback has been a middling medium ‘Mech for some time, having long since been overshadowed by its Clanner cousin the Hunchback IIC. The Skill Tree has breathed new life into the original Swayback in the form of armor and structure skills.

The HBK-4SP retained its armor and structure quirks from before the patch that allowed the ‘Mech to remain viable, and these quirks benefit supremely from the new survival skills. How much do they benefit? With all survival skills taken, the center torso on the 4SP takes over 150 points of damage to destroy, turning the humble Hunchie into a tiny armoured assault ‘Mech.

Battlemaster BLR-2C

BLR-1G

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

With high mounts and tons of energy hardpoints, the Battlemaster BLR-2C has been a popular choice for competitive decks looking for a tanky bruiser. With few weapon quirks to lose, and retaining its massive structure bonuses, the skill tree turns the BLR-2C into the biggest zombie ‘Mech the game has ever seen.

Hellbringer – All variants

HBR-Prime

courtesy of MWOwiki.org

Having never needed quirks to be a danger on the battlefield, giving this Clan heavy ‘Mech access to skills that reduce its heat generation and allow it to fire its weapons faster just meant the DPS on this chassis got a big boost. The Hellbringer never needed the damage boost in order to be competitively viable, so watch out for this ‘Mech to receive some kind of nerf in future patches.

Losers

While many quirk-less ‘Mechs have won big in the latest patch, there are just as many quirk-full ‘Mechs that have lost out in a big way. With the introduction of the Clans some years ago, many Inner Sphere designs needed massive buffs to certain weapons in the form of quirks in order to keep up. Removing those quirks have resulted in some much maligned ‘Mechs being rendered next to useless compared to some of the big winners.

On top of that, the patch also introduced the engine desync, which altered how engine size affects performance. Instead of larger engines causing ‘Mechs to accelerate, decelerate, and turn faster, those qualities were rolled into the chassis itself while larger engines strictly affected maximum speed. This has resulted in some larger engine designs losing much of their maneuverability along with their firepower.

Locust – All variants

LCT-1V

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

The combined loss of weapons quirks and engine desync has hit the venerable Locust particularly hard. Previously, its small size combined with its ability to stop and start on a dime meant it was particularly difficult to target the little bastard. Now it’s both lost much of its bite and is much easier to target.

Blackjack BJ-1

BJ-1

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

The BJ-1 was of those Spheroid ‘Mechs that relied on its massive weapons quirks for its power, primarily in ballistics cooldown and heat generation. With those quirks much reduced and not enough skills introduced to replace them, the poor Blackjack is no longer the king Inner Sphere medium dakka ‘Mech.

Cicada CDA-3C

CDA-3C

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

The Cicada is another ‘Mech that relied on massive quirks for its usefulness. Although never popular, Cicada pilots definitely benefited from the -50% PPC heat generation quirk when plinking away with their particle gun. Now that quirk is gone, and there’s nothing in the Skill Tree that even comes close to approximating that massive boost, relegating the Cicada to the unused tier of ‘Mechs.

Quickdraw QKD-IV4

QKD-4G

courtesy of MWOWiki.org

The hero Quickdraw was another ‘Mech that had a ton of weapons quirks to give it a boost, but it also lost out due to the engine desync as well. It had massive acceleration and deceleration quirks to make it one of the more nimble heavy ‘Mechs, but once those characteristics were rolled into the chassis it lost much of the benefit its large engine provided. Never a popular design, it feels like the rug has been swept right out from under the QKD-IV4’s feet.

Any ‘Mechs you think were big winners or losers in the latest patch? Let us know in the comments!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy. 

 

 

24 Hour Mechathon in support of Covenant House – May 20

image courtesy of No Guts No Galaxy

It’s not often that videogames cross paths with noble humanitarian causes, but when they do it’s a Very Good Thingtm

Just announced on the No Guts No Galaxy Forums, the 24 Hour Mechathon is, as the name might suggest, a marathon game of MechWarrior Online with all proceeds going to charity. This year’s recipient will be Covenant House, an organization dedicated to the assistance of abused, runaway, and homeless youth.

The announcement comes with a touching story from the event organizer RJBass3, who at age 18 “was living homeless on the streets of South Florida”. Covenant House rescued RJBass3 from a life on the streets and made sure he and many other disadvantaged youth received food, shelter, and healthcare while they grew into independent members of society. He would eventually go on to join the 228th Independent Battlemech Regiment, a unit in MechWarrior Online, where he would rise through the ranks to become executive officer of the 318th Heavy Assault “Swamp Foxes”.

Now, 25 years later, RJBass3 will give back to Covenant House in the best way possible: a 24 hour charity stream of MechWarrior Online. Both he and many other MechWarriors will begin streaming on Saturday, May 20th to raise money and awareness for Covenant House. The fine folks at No Guts No Galaxy will be hosting the stream on their twitch channel, and there will be many prizes and giveaways from both PGI (the developers of MechWarrior Online) as well as No Guts No Galaxy.

If you can’t make the stream on May 20th then don’t worry – you can make an advance donation to the 24 Hour Mechathon on the Covenant House event page here.

So tune in on May 20th to watch a some giant stompy robot action until their pilots fall asleep in their neurohelmets. And while you’re there, consider a donation to Covenant House. It is, after all, for the kids. 

Latest Q&A With HBS + New Beta Date

It was good news and bad news at the latest Q&A session with Harebrained schemes.

The bad news is there’s still no new date set for the backer beta, which has now been delayed two months since the Kickstarter estimated test date. As reported in the latest session hosted by our good friends at No Guts No Galaxy, the developers are still hard at work ironing out the kinks in BattleTech’s armor before they feel comfortable releasing it to outside testing.

The good news is that HBS is back to firing on all cylinders from their disastrous build upgrade in March, and HBS co-founder Mitch Gitelman says they are “narrowing in” on a beta test date announcement in the near future.

Mitch also announced a live test of BattleTech’s multiplayer game mode between himself and game director Mike McCain which has now been posted to the Harebrained Schemes YouTube channel. This is our first real look at BattleTech‘s gameplay, and I’m sure you’re all eager to see a preview of what is sure to be the hottest ‘Mech game in recent memory. 

The hour-long Q&A took place with Mitch as well as audio director Rob Piersol and game composer John Everest.  As befit their professions, they answered mostly sound related questions concerning BattleTech’s development. One thing mentioned during the sound testing was the inclusion of a rotary Autocannon into the game and how that sound developed with respect to modern day weaponry.

The mention of the Rotary Autocannon is a tad surprising as the game is ostensibly dated in the year 3025, many decades before the introduction of the Rotary A/C into BattleTech lore. Mitch also commented that there will be different manufacturers in the game, some of which selling the single-shot Autocannons and others selling the Rotary type. Could this be an indication of a departure from the classic BattleTech rules in the name of added gameplay depth?

Also confirmed during the stream will be an action dependent musical score and pilot death-screams similar to those found in the MechCommander series of games.  

While it’s a bit of a disappointment not to have an updated backer beta date announced, it’s good to hear that development is once again proceeding apace. We here at Sarna will be sure you bring your more BattleTech related news as it’s announced.

Update 2017-05-12: According to the latest KickStarter update, the Backer Beta will start June 1st! Fantastic!